The Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Humberside, Matthew Grove, unveiled his draft Police and Crime Plan this week. The consultation period lasts for the next six weeks, and Mr Grove would like the public to send him their feedback. So far, so good; although for the public to fully understand his proposals the plan has to be written in plain English. None of the jargon, buzzwords, and gobbledegook we are used to reading. This is where the plan falls at the first hurdle. Here is an extract from section 5.2, explaining Mr Grove's objectives:
Each of the above outcomes is underpinned by more specific objectives which have been developed in conjunction with the public and partner organisations. They address the critical issues and are effectively the means to achieving the end results. These objectives are the ‘road map’ that defines the approach for how the outcomes or ‘destination’ will be achieved and are the crux of the Police and Crime Plan. These objectives provide the focus, as well as the constraints, for the Chief Constable, partners and I, which in turn will drive the activities and behaviours that will deliver the above outcomes.
It really doesn't get any better, and a local journalist told me they had received an e-mail from the Commissioner's Office saying the plan was primarily aimed at 'public sector partners'. But surely 'public sector partners' can read plain English too? There isn't an excuse for publishing a jargon-filled document such as this.
Mr Grove has also said he wants our opinions on a possible 2% increase in the police precept. I asked him on Twitter if he was in favour of such an increase, and he didn't reply. Discovering he was due to be interviewed on BBC Radio Humberside this morning, I asked the presenter if he could get an answer for me.
Mr Grove said he has a duty to consult the public and get support from local residents, or the Police and Crime Panel could veto his proposals and force him to increase the precept. He went on to say he personally wants to freeze the precept, but he would not rule out an increase. I suppose I got a straight answer to my question: does he want an increase - yes or no? But whether he will propose an increase will depend on what the public tells him, and crucially the public don't know what he would spend an extra £800,000 on if he rejects a Government grant equivalent to 1% of the budget (£400,000).
Despite his assertion that he wants to freeze the precept, what he said looks like a back-door way of grabbing more of our cash. He has given himself enough wriggle room based on residents' views, although of course we will never read exactly what residents tell him. If officers convince him a rise is needed, how closely will he question what they say?
The public also need to be reminded that under the old police authority, the precept increased by 4% last year. A local supporter, who has kept their Council Tax bills in recent years, also informed me the precept has increased by over 80% in the last decade. So what has the money been spent on? There must be some fat to trim. Shouldn't Mr Grove be advocating a reduction in the amount we pay?
The PCC's staff have asked me to send them my feedback. What I'll do is send them a link to this blog, however unless they explain the Police and Crime Plan in plain English, tell us how they are going to spend our money and get value for money for taxpayers, it's not worth the paper it's written on.